Packwood – one of the stars of the National Trust.

We have held memberships of the National Trust for over 40 years and one of the first we took our two children to was Packwood Hall. Packwood is now a firm favourite and we made a visit again this year. The welcome sign describes Packwood as “a house to dream of, a garden to dream in”. We were only intending to look at the house from the outside and mainly intended to explore the garden in greater detail. Packwood is well known for its unusual collection of sundials.

 

The approach to Packwood is one of the most welcoming we have ever come across, passing through wildflower meadows and impressive gateways.

    

Once we had passed through a few of these gateways and archways we discovered colourful well-designed borders full of herbaceous perennials and roses. Much of the planting had been chosen to attract wildlife, predators and pollinators.

    

The gardens were well structured, divided into garden rooms with different characters and atmospheres in each. In one formal lawn area we came across a rectangular sunk garden built from limestone and its borders were planted with plants that enjoyed the dry well drained soil. These plants provided a strong contrast to the lush look of the rest of the gardens.

       

Lush planting was prevalent elsewhere throughout the garden making for an atmosphere of excitement. There were wonderful individual plants to be found as well as well designed borders.

         

A well-known aspect of the gardens at Packwood is its topiary, especially a group called the twelve apostles. Personally I found this part of Packwood rather dull but here are the photos I took to illustrate it. However I do have a soft spot for cloud pruning of hedges.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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We made our monthly visit to Attingham Park, our last one for 2017, just as Christmas was making itself known at this National Trust property. Before we even reached the coffee shop for our usual warm drink to get us fueled up for our walk, we had been met by a snowman, a Christmas tree and we were entertained to some 1940’s music and dancing. The hall was decorated in a 1940’s style so the dancing set the scene.

 

The trees were decorated with wartime decorations, based on the idea of “make and make do”, as were the decorations in the coffee shop, where paper chains were made from newspaper. The trees were themed with one based on children’s games from the 1940’s and another was book based.

 

We came across a few other Snowmen, as we followed the one-mile trail, to amuse us on this chilly day. I managed to get around this month without my wheelchair as my recovery from leg surgery is coming along nicely. I walked the mile using a crutch which was very pleasing and rewarding!

      

Wandering through the woodland areas beneath tall mature trees, we noticed that a few browned leaves were managing to hang on to the branches but the majority were bare skeletons. These frameworks of trunks, branches and twigs were magnificent with no green leaves to hide their structure.

   

New buds were already waiting patiently on some branches anticipating spring far off on the horizon, while on other neighbouring trees a few dried leaves hung on. One patch of trees still showed some green in its canopy. A few old seed pods hung on having defied the storms, rains and gales of autumn, seed heads of trees, shrubs and perennial plants.

 

  

We wandered around the walled garden now virtually clear of crops, leaving hazel pole structures bare of the bean plants that once adorned them. The volunteer staff here are adept at creating beautiful and original plant structures.

   

A green flowered cauliflower had recently been attacked by frost, so had browned a little. Celeriac though recently cropped awaited storage.

 

The gardeners’ bothy was simply decorated but full of atmosphere, added to by the gardeners and volunteers enjoying their break so the aroma of freshly brewed coffee mingled with the smell of wood smoke.

Whatever time of year you explore the countryside, parkland or even more so a garden, there are always surprises awaiting. An out of season flower, a bud bursting at an inappropriate time or sadly at times the sudden death of a favourite plant. Two surprises were awaiting us at Attingham this December. First were lemon yellow catkins hanging fresh and healthily from hazel shrubs. These are usually key features of the month of February. In December they provided a beautiful diversion for me and my camera lens!

The second surprise was a Rhododendron shrub in flower!

  

Now that we have explored the parkland at Attingham Park every month during 2017, we need to decide where our monthly visit will be next year. We need somewhere open all year and of interest every month too. We shall let you know in the new year! I hope you have enjoyed visiting Attingham with us each month during 2017.

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My Garden Journal – December 2017

I decided to post my final Garden Journal 2017 post for my Christmas post this year. I hope you enjoy it. Have a great Christmas time!

Here is the final episode of my 2017 Garden Journal, my entries for December. I have already been to my art suppliers and purchased books to become my 2018 Garden Journal. As usual I have changed the size and gone for a larger landscape bound drawing book. But for now let me share my December pages.

I began by looking at the bird-life feeding in our garden in December and in particular the characterful Tawny Owl. I did a painting of these wonderful owls using fine fibretip pens and Japanese watercolour pens.

 

I wrote, “Birdlife in our garden in December is generally quiet. Squeaks of Dunnocks sneak out from the shrubbery and Robins share their watery liquid winter song. Winter migrant Thrushes soon fill the garden with chatter.

Most noisy of all are our Tawny Owls who call loudly when the light fails and darkness overpowers the garden. We open the patio doors to listen more intently and drink in  the atmosphere these owl calls create.”

Turn over the page and we find a double page spread looking at garden editing and seedheads and I include a great quote from one of my favourite garden designers, Dan Pearson.

“December for us is a key month in our garden editing period. It is when we move plants, take plants out that are past their best and completely re-design and re-plant some areas. I was so pleased to read in his book, “Natural Selection”, that Dan Pearson thinks the same.”

“Editing the garden is a gradual process of  elimination, and I like to let nature take its course and for foliage to find its way back into the ground in its own time….. I savour many perennials for their winter seedheads,  form and structure, and this is what I edit back to so that there is plenty for the winter sunshine for the winter sunshine to fall upon.

Removing the clutter lets you see the things in a new light, but you need to retrain your eye in winter to see things in a more economical way. It is good to understand the structure of a garden  and to aim for it to be as handsome as it can be.”

“Seed heads of perennials take centre stage in our garden this month. When snow arrives our seed heads completely change their character. They appear strong enough to withstand snow’s weight.

Snow in December has become a rare occurrence in recent years as our climate changes. In fact we have not seen any December snow since 2010 and 2011. This year saw this all change. A foot of snow fell in a two day period and the garden looked weighed down, slumped and bent low”.

  

“We love to see how the snow changes the characters of our pieces of sculpture by strengthening their shapes and sometimes creating silhouettes”.

  

Turning over the page we meet lots of colour, winter bedding plants and our plant of the month.

I wrote “We like to use winter bedding plants in pots to add extra colourful, bright patches to our winter borders. Violas and Cyclamen are two of our favourites often linked with the gentle colour and textures of grasses.”

  

“Our plant of the month for December is Hesperantha which flower strongly at this time of year, glowing bright pinks and reds.”

     

My final page in my Garden Journal 2017 is all about the surprises that the garden treats us to in December, bright colours that lift the heart. You will notice that I have included more pictures in the post than were originally in the journal, but I simply ran out of space in my book. I hope you enjoy the extras!

“Red surprises in the winter garden can warm the heart and souls of the garden and the gardener alike. Joined by splashes of oranges these colours warm us up nicely.”

The reds and oranges are provided by coloured stems of shrubs, odd blooms on roses, the berries of Iris foetissima and the late colours in Acer leaves. So much colour to end the year.

       

It is good to finish my year of reports on such a positive colourful note. My Garden Journal will return next year!

 

 

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Jo’s Jewellery – an update

Jude the Undergardener and I were so proud when we attended the launch evening of a new season at a gallery in the world-famous riverside town of Ironbridge. The gallery is appropriately called Ironbridge Fine Arts, which aims to showcase the best local artists and crafts people. We arrived in the dark of a winter evening to have a look at Jo’s jewellery in the gallery, and on the way to find her display I set to work with my camera.

  

And then there its was – Jo’s work.

  

While on holiday in Norfolk with daughter Jo and her husband Rob, we found a beach where we could photograph some of her jewellery for her new website. Here we used the colours and textures of sea-battered wood of groynes and supports for beach-huts. Jo works mainly in silver with some gold embellishments and some resin work so you need the right backgrounds to enhance the character and characteristics of the work in photos.

Once we realise we have come across a suitable location, we are so pleased with ourselves – not all ideas work out! We soon get to work if the light is right, checking out backgrounds, angle of light, cloud cover, and then homing in on colour, texture and patterns for each piece of jewellery. Sometimes we strike lucky and the piece matches and works with the chosen object behind it and the effect of the light of course. Sometimes though we wander around trying a single piece in lots of different places until the feeling is right. All four of us discussed each and every one of the photos so it was real teamwork.

A perfect location will afford us the chance to photograph against a background that enhances the jewellery, adds atmosphere and adds interest without distracting from the subjects themselves. This beach was spot on and the row of beach houses on stilts was an added bonus.

 

Here was plenty of potential for shots to be taken. We had the sea, the sand and the sky to photograph against as well as rusting metal surfaces, sea battered wood and pealing paintwork.

         

It feels good to be involved in Jo’s jewellery craftwork. But even better is being able to contribute my photographic interests with Rob’s IT skills on Jo’s website he designed and  runs. Here are some of the successful photographs from the session on the beach.

    

More recently more new jewellery awaited photographing and this time we used the colours, patterns and textures of the autumn garden, including our Seaside Garden. This time Rob and I worked together to find the best backgrounds and positioning of each piece – we work well together.  I thought I would share twenty or so of the many photographs we took. So I hope you enjoy this gallery – as usual click on the first pic and then navigate using the arrows.

To check out Jo’ creations and Rob’s website skills please look at the website at

http://www.jo-mhjewellery.com .

 

 

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Lichen on a Wall

Lichen always fascinate me, as they sit between two worlds being part algae working in cahouts with various fungi, existing alongside each other in a special symbiotic relationship. Together these two parts of the partnership act very differently to singly.

This complex relationship results in a huge variety of colours, textures, sizes and forms.

When holidaying on Anglesey, an island off the north-west tip of North Wales and separated from it by the wild Menai Straits, we stayed in a bungalow with the garden boundary formed by a stone wall. One stretch of this wall was favoured by lichen, perhaps due to its aspect, the make up of the stone or some other factor.

Here is the group of photos I took while wandering the wall in a gap between rain showers.

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After the Storm – snow in December

Mid-December saw the sudden arrival of snow a rare occurrence in recent years. The last time we can remember having any appreciable snow fall in December was back in 2010 and 2011. Sadly I am still recovering from my surgery so really haven’t been able to get out there and enjoy the white stuff. However it did give me the chance to send Jude the Undergardener out with my trusty Nikon, so this post will feature all her photographs.

 

They are pretty good for someone who says she can’t use a camera! Methinks the lady objects too much! Jude the Undergardener has such a good eye for a picture!

Seedheads of perennials gain caps of snow and ice, and light finds places to make sparkle.

        

Twiggy skeletons of shrubs that had lost their leaves managed to catch balls of snow in their branches.

 

Evergreen trees and shrubs gather much more snow and ice around them like thick duvets.

 

Sculptures scattered around the garden change as they absorb the snow.

     

Surprise flowers add tiny patches of colour among the whiteness, roses throwing up surprises through to the end of the year. Similarly the colours of fruits and berries pop up from the snow like “jack-in-the-box”, but this will only last until our winter thrushes consume them.

       

Structures that blend into the background for the rest of the year come to the fore when winter arrives but even more so when snow covers the garden in white. These structures include trained fruit trees, trellises, evergreen climbers and pollarded trees.

    

Looking out of the garden into our borrowed landscape showed that the countryside too had put on a new coat. Looking into the garden there are very special moments in time to catch. This leaf may at any time fall to the ground in a gentle breeze.

 

Posted in colours, garden design, garden photography, gardening, gardens, grasses, hardy perennials, light, light quality, ornamental grasses, ornamental trees and shrubs, outdoor sculpture, roses, sculpture, Shrewsbury, Shropshire, shrubs, Winter Gardening, winter gardens | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

A Walk in the Park – Attingham Park November

Number eleven in my series of posts where I report on our monthly visits for a wander around Attingham Park, our local National Trust property. Just as in October I was in a wheelchair pushed around the paths by Jude, the Undergardener so some of the photos will look taken from a low angle. Please enjoy sharing our visit with us!

We decided to follow the One-Mile Walk and as usual made our way firstly towards the Walled Garden. Autumn had settled in although some varieties of tree still held onto a full complement of foliage, awaiting another few days of frosts to join into the feeling/essence  of the season. The colourful mixed herbaceous and annual flower borders which have been welcoming us into the walled garden have almost lost their colour with just a few yellow-flowered Rudbeckias extending the show.

 

The borders around the central circular dipping well still showed colour from healthy-looking specimens of Penstemen “Garnet” and a few white flowers as companions.

 

The vintage hose-reel held modern plastic hose in a bright yellow rolled up to form tight patterns.

 

The wooden doorway from the main section of the walled garden which leads visitors into the glasshouse section opened wide to reveal a wheelbarrow full of Dahlias prunings. A gardener knelt nearby preparing the plants for their winter storage. She had lifted the plants, cut their top growth off with her Felco secateurs, thrown these prunings into her barrow and busily cleared soil from around the tubers. These she would take off into one of the cool brick stores to overwinter. Some of the hardier varieties were in flower closer to the gardeners’ bothy.

  

All of the glasshouses were closed up against the changing weather, but through their windows we spied pumpkins and chilies drying. Nerines added pink cheer to the outsides.

 

    

The autumn light shone through the trees at a low angle lighting up the colours of the changing foliage giving the effects of stained glass windows.

     

Next month’s visit will be the final one of our 12 monthly visits to Attingham Park to study the seasonal changes. We look forward to seeing how the move into the next season, winter, will show itself.

 

 

 

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